Special Alert

Morton Theatre

  • 195 W. Washington St.|
  • Athens GA 30601
  • 706.613.3770
  • | Fax: 706.613.3773
  • Region: Downtown

One of the first, and the oldest surviving vaudeville theatre in the United States, uniquely built, owned, and operated by an African-American; the Morton opened in 1910 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Restored by a citizen-approved sales tax program in 1987 and adapted as community performing arts space, the Morton operates as a rental facility hosting live theatre, music concerts, church services, weddings, dance concerts, receptions, seminars, awards shows, pageants, community events, and more. The rehabilitated Morton Theatre, which seats 500, is a unit of the Arts and Nature Programs Division of Athens-Clarke County's Leisure Services Department, and is managed by the Morton Theatre Corporation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The Morton Building was built in 1910 by Monroe Bowers (“Pink”) Morton, a prominent, local, African-American businessman. Although he had little formal education, Morton, whose mother had been a slave, became a successful businessman and prominent figure in Athens’ history. In 1896 he was chosen as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. He was also a contractor and owned over 30 buildings, the Morton being the largest. At one time, the Morton building formed the core of the downtown Black business district. Many of Athens’ Black doctors, dentists and pharmacists practiced in the Morton Building. Among these were Dr. Ida Mae Johnson Hiram, the first Black woman to be licensed to practice medicine (dentistry) in the State, and Dr. William H. Harris, one of the founders of the Georgia State Medical Association of Colored Physicians, Dentists and Druggists. The theatre was opened on May 18, 1910 for vaudeville acts and those of local, regional and nations performers. Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and Ma Rainey performed at the Morton during its hey-day. During the 1930’s, the theatre was modified to become a movie house. In 1954, a small fire broke out in the projection room. After a fire marshal’s inspection, the 500-plus-seat theatre was padlocked for failing to offer adequate emergency exits. However, various street level businesses continued their operations. In 1980, using a combination of state and federal funds, the building was purchase by the nonprofit Morton Theatre Corporation. Local bands such as Dreams So Real, the B-52’s and R.E.M. occasionally used the building for rehearsal space and filming music videos. In that time the Morton Theatre Corporation secured loans and donations to replace the roof and make minor repairs. In 1987, the citizens of Athens-Clarke County came to the rescue of the Morton through the passage of the special projects local option sales tax referendum that included the restoration of the theatre. In 1991, ownership of the building was handed over to the Athens-Clarke Unified Government. In the fall of 1993, followed by the signing of a management agreement between the Athens-Clarke Unified Government and the Morton Theatre Corporation, the theatre was re-opened. The government provides staff to enable the theatre to function as a community performing arts space, while the non-profit Morton Theatre Corporation develops programming and maintains the financial operations.

The Morton Theatre is available for rent for lectures, seminars, small banquets, meetings, conferences, and receptions.
• 544-seat, acoustically superb auditorium
•Audio system appropriate for broadcasting tapes and voice amplification
•Available for seminars, rental, tours
•Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

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  • Handicap Accessible:
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Facility Info
Meeting Rooms
  • Exhibits Space 1
  • Largest Room
  • Total Sq. Ft. 12300
  • Reception Capacity 120
  • Space Notes Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
    Restored and adapted for performing arts space and community events
    Meets all Americans with Disabilities Act requirements
    500-seat, acoustically superb auditorium
    Lighting system: ETC Express 72/144 with 96 dimmers and Source 4 lighting instruments with 3 Lycian Super Arc spotlights
    Sound system: Yamaha MC 32/14 FX 32 channel audio system allows broadcast of pre-recorded and live sound reinforcement and recording
    Flying system: 24 rigging lines, 3 sets of black legs and borders, a mid-stage black traveler, powder blue cyc, 3 on-stage electrics, and a black curtain at rear
    Available for performance rentals, tours, seminars, small banquets, meetings, conferences, receptions, and more
  • Theatre Capacity 500
  • Banquet Capacity 100
  • Number of Rooms 4
  • Classroom Capacity 40
Conference Room
  • Total Sq. Ft.: 500
  • Classroom Capacity: 25
  • Banquet Capacity: 25
  • Reception Capacity: 25
E.D. Harris Pharmacy
  • Total Sq. Ft.: 1050
  • Classroom Capacity: 25
  • Banquet Capacity: 140
  • Reception Capacity: 14
Lower Lobby
  • Total Sq. Ft.: 750
  • Classroom Capacity: 40
  • Banquet Capacity: 140
  • Reception Capacity: 140
Morton Theatre
  • Total Sq. Ft.: 10000
  • Theater Capacity: 500
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